Isn’t It a Pity


 
 

Isn’t It a Pity is a song by English musician George Harrison from his 1970 solo album All Things Must Pass. It appears in two variations there: one the well-known, seven-minute version; the other a reprise, titled Isn’t It a Pity (Version Two). Harrison wrote the song in 1966, but it was rejected for inclusion on releases by The Beatles. In many countries around the world, the song was also issued on a double A-side single with My Sweet Lord.

An anthemic ballad and one of Harrison’s most celebrated compositions, Isn’t It a Pity has been described as the emotional and musical centrepiece of All Things Must Pass and “a poignant reflection on The Beatles’ coarse ending”. Co-produced by Phil Spector, the recording employs multiple keyboard players, rhythm guitarists and percussionists, as well as orchestration by arranger John Barham. In its extended fadeout, the song references the closing refrain of the Beatles’ 1968 hit Hey Jude. Other musicians on the recording include Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Gary Wright and the band Badfinger, while the reprise version features Eric Clapton on lead guitar.

While no longer the “really tight” social unit they had been throughout the chaos of Beatlemania – or the “four-headed monster”, as Mick Jagger famously called them – the individual Beatles were still bonded by genuine friendship during their final, troubled years as a band, even if it was now more of a case of being locked together at a deep psychological level after such a sustained period of heightened experience. Eric Clapton has described this bond as being just like that of a typical family, “with all the difficulties that entails”. When the band finally split, in April 1970 – a “terrible surprise” for the outside world, in the words of author Mark Hertsgaard, “like the sudden death of a beloved young uncle” – even the traditionally most disillusioned Beatle, George Harrison, suffered a mild bereavement.

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